The Altair Academic Program: Complementing Teaching and Learning
The Altair Academic Program is different by design. Our main goal is to empower as many students and faculty as possible to leverage Altair’s computational science technologies so they can drive intelligent decisions.
In today’s world, everyone faces an ever-increasing number of challenges – ranging from the production and use of cleaner energy and other scarce resources, to improving our healthcare and personal security, to optimizing the performance of complex, connected products, and more. These challenges require better decision-making and more innovative solutions than ever before.
According to the Grand Challenges of Engineering defined by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), “In the century ahead, engineers will continue to be partners with scientists in the great quest for understanding many unanswered questions of nature.”
At Altair, we believe our unique philosophy of convergence – the convergence of simulation, data science, high-performance computing (HPC), and artificial intelligence (AI) – is crucial in helping people accelerate innovation. This is especially true when young engineers and data scientists that are still in school – like the former student we spotlight in this article – utilize such technologies in creative, skillful ways. Often, these young innovators are as determined as we are to unlock answers that will improve our world – if not more so.
Given that, the job of the Altair Academic Program can be condensed into two key parts:
- Making our software apps as accessible as possible to both faculty and students, and
- to support and complement their teaching, research, and project-based learning.
Ultimately, our vision is to help students learn theory and first principles in exciting, dynamic ways while helping educators to incorporate highly visual and interactive physics-based modeling, simulation, and data science into their course instruction. All this is designed to spark curiosity and create those invaluable “a-ha!” moments.
“Tools from Altair helped our team improve the performance of our solar car – and gave me a head start in my career." - Kory Soukup, Altair application engineer and recent University of Minnesota graduate (pictured top middle with yellow headband)
Today, simulation and data analytics software like Altair’s is akin to the now-ubiquitous use of handheld calculators, which complement first principles by helping students check their estimates and manual calculations, perform more complex computations, and reduce errors.
Academic Program Accessibility
Through our free, easy-to-obtain Altair Student Edition, students can download all of Altair’s dozens of industrial-strength software solutions and conveniently use them on their personal computers.
And thanks to Altair’s patented units-based licensing system, schools can install these solutions on any university-owned computers campus-wide in a simple, ultra-affordable networked manner – no need for faculty or IT administrators to worry about managing individual licenses.
Academic Program Support
To personalize our support to different types of users, we host separate web areas tailored for both educators and students. For course instructors, we provide tutorials, pre-built models and examples, hardware kits, and eLearning guides.
For students, check out our in-depth student guide, learning library and movies in the Altair Academic Program YouTube channel to get started with Altair software, learn tips and tricks, and grow your software proficiency over time. Students can also access resources like technical papers, eBooks and textbooks, certification courses, and our Project Lab.
Faculty and students are welcomed and encouraged to participate in our Altair Community, especially to search the helpful Knowledge Base there, and to ask questions and share answers to others in our online discussion forums and user groups designed for specific Altair products. We also host the Altair Academic Forum specifically for questions pertaining to academic issues such as student licensing, online learning, certifications, and team sponsorships.
Strengthening Bonds Between Academia and Industry
Our Academic Program can provide benefits to our customers in industry as well. Many of them know that it’s challenging and arduous to find, recruit, and hire young engineers and data scientists who can hit the ground running with simulation and data science software. As students learn how to use Altair software while still in school, it’ll help them compete for and win premier jobs in industry. This, of course, helps everyone; it helps students get great jobs right out of school, helps those in academia see their students succeed, and helps companies in the never-ending search for top-tier talent.
Real-World Example: Kory Soukup's Story
We believe the Altair Academic program is a vital difference-maker, not just for us but for individuals, teams, and organizations around the world. But we know it’s easy to talk about making a difference on students’ lives – yet it’s another thing to do it. Take the story of current Altair application engineer Kory Soukup, for example.
Soukup was a student at the University of Minnesota from 2013-2019, where he studied aerospace engineering and mechanics along with astrophysics. But his real passion at Minnesota was his role on the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project (UMNSVP), which he joined in 2013 and where he specialized in aerodynamics and composites design and also worked on shell design, battery cooling, motors, and more. The UMNSVP is an extracurricular student organization that builds solar-powered cars and races them around the world in various competitions, culminating every two years in the largest race of them all, the World Solar Challenge in Australia. Teams are entirely student-led, and they utilize the latest computational science software like Altair’s to design, verify, test, and optimize vehicles.
Soukup and team's solar vehicle in action.
During Soukup’s senior year, Altair sponsored the UMNSVP team, giving them free access to all of Altair’s technology portfolio. It was during his time on the team that Soukup says he learned the most. “I basically lived in that shop – after the first six months it was like an addiction. I learned more there building cars than I ever did in a classroom,” he says. “That’s partly because we worked directly with commercial sponsors and folks like Altair. Through them, we could get our hands on tools even before we entered industry. It gave us a head start.” Soukup’s core team during his time with the UMNSVP was around 50 people and featured students of all disciplines that could access Altair software. “By the time I graduated, we had engineers of every discipline and we also had folks in business, marketing, industrial design – there were even a few political science majors on the team just because they thought cars were cool,” he says.
Soukup credits having unfettered access to Altair’s technology as a crucial part of his educational experience at Minnesota, helping not just him, but his team. He says software solutions like those comprising the Altair® HyperWorks® platform were especially crucial in helping his team design components and systems that harmonized with one another so they could build cars that were safe and effective. “Every car we built was street legal, which we were very proud of,” he says. In addition, he credits simulation technology for allowing the teams to do things that, just a few years before, weren’t possible. “Even when I was on the team just a few years ago, all of our composites analyses were simplified, ‘back of the napkin’ calculations. I’m not proud to say that, but we weren’t able to take into account a lot of things that I now know matter,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons why, since I’ve graduated and found the power of these tools, I’ve helped Altair’s Academic Program team reach out to more students because this is stuff that really helps them out.” He credits these tools for saving his team hours of labor and headache, and anticipates that teams will only become more proficient in the years to come.
After graduating, Soukup found his way to Altair to start his career. “The reason I chose Altair over other organizations is because Altair is involved in so many industries that you’re never going to find yourself working on one thing,” he says. “Instead, you’ll be working in 10 different industries each month. It’s diverse, and that’s what I love about it – you can touch every industry and you’re playing with software models every day.” Today, he’s an application engineer based out of the Boston area who works closely with many customers in the defense and maritime industries, and occasionally does some product design work.
Soukup gives kudos to the Altair Academic Program not just for giving him the tools needed to find a career (at Altair, no less), but for helping his team and others around the world. He sees a bright future for projects like the UMNSVP, especially as solar and simulation technology continue to evolve. “Lightweighting is just the beginning,” he says. “Now, teams can run everything much faster – students can even run simulations on their laptops. It’s truly amazing that students can run simulations in their dorm rooms. In the past, it’d take quite a while just to get through the design phase. Now, they can use that saved time to build and test better, more reliable cars.” Additionally, he thinks the future is bright for students looking to transfer their skillsets and perspectives into the world in general. “The technology transfer is huge. With all these folks going into industry, it’s going to change the way industry works, change the way companies approach their designs. Now, it’s going to become simulation-driven from the outset, rather than simply simulation-validated, which is what it’s traditionally been.”
In all, Soukup’s story is just a small example of how the Altair Academic Program can empower students on campus and further, even into their careers. As more students like Soukup join organizations with the power of simulation-driven design, data science, and more, we can expect to see the floodgates of innovation swing open.